As Chef Laurent Manrique has learned, combining simplicity with challenge walks a tightrope between passion for one’s craft and a desire to constantly seek new opportunities. Currently, Laurent commutes between San Francisco and New York to oversee concepts in each location. Café de la Presse, a renowned Parisian-inspired bistro owned by Laurent, in addition to Blanc et Rouge and Rouge et Blanc, two stylish wine bars in downtown San Francisco, enjoy distinction among the city’s most popular dining and entertainment destinations. Laurent’s New York project, Millésime, an upscale seafood brasserie in the historic Carlton hotel on Madison Avenue, opened to fabulous reviews in November 2010 and was named one of New York’s Best New Restaurants 2011 by Esquire magazine.
Having made significant impacts on both the New York and the San Francisco dining scenes throughout his career, Laurent is most recently lauded for his native contemporary Gascon cooking and outstanding service that earned Aqua, San Francisco’s elegant seafood restaurant, numerous accolades during his tenure as its Corporate Executive Chef. Aqua’s 3½-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle and third place ranking on the Wine Spectator’s “San Francisco’s Best Restaurants” list follow notable Robb Report’s “Best of the Best of 2004,” San Francisco Magazine’s “2004 Best in Chow” and 7×7 Magazine’s “Best Business Lunch.”
On December 5, 2011 in Paris, Laurent was appointed to the class of Master Chefs admitted to the prestigious Association des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France this spring. Maître Cuisinier de France (“Master Chef of France”) is the most envied title that chefs aspire to have; but not everyone can become a Maître Cuisinier. The organization’s motto is “to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development.”
In 2006, the first time the esteemed Michelin Guide came to the San Francisco Bay Area, Laurent garnered Aqua its first two Michelin Stars, as well as earning the distinction of being the only French chef in the region to have done so. In 2007 and 2008 Aqua was again awarded two Michelin stars, during which timeframe Laurent earned the Kimpton Group’s Fifth Floor restaurant its one Michelin star. Soon after, Laurent was selected as one of the participating chefs in the prestigious Masters of Food and Wine event in Carmel.
Laurent learned of his love for cooking while growing up in the Gascon village of Roques. Preparing meals with his grandmother Aurélie awakened his awareness of his passion for the craft, while giving him inspiration for the signature pot-au-feu that appears on nearly all of his menus. Embarking on a culinary career at age 14 led him to an apprenticeship with Master Chef Roger Duffour, followed by training in Paris, where he worked with Master Chefs Yan Jacquot and Claude Deligne at Michelin-starred Taillevent and Toit de Passy. Under the encouragement of Master Chef Michel Rostang, Laurent came to Los Angeles in 1991 to work at restaurants Fennel and Rex.
Just one year later Laurent moved to New York City to take over as Le Grand Comptoir’s Executive Chef. His time at the renowned bistro was followed by an executive chef position at the Waldorf Astoria’s Peacock Alley. In 1998, the same year he was chosen as Bon Appetit’s Rising Star Chef, Laurent left the Waldorf to become partner and Executive Chef of Gertrude’s.
Shortly thereafter, the west coast beckoned. He left New York in 1999 to join San Francisco’s Campton Place as Executive Chef where he earned the luxurious restaurant high rankings in both Gourmet’s “Top 10 Best Restaurants in the Bay Area,” and Food and Wine’s “50 Best Hotel Restaurants.” In the spring of 2003, he joined Aqua as Corporate Executive Chef.
Most recently opened restaurant in San Francisco Aquitaine Wine Bistro in April 2013.